Suzen and I are in Portland, Oregon visiting relatives. We met with an old friend, Delores Custer, author of the fabled Food Styling book. Delores took us on a grand tour of the Saturday farmers market in the South Park Blocks of downtown Portland.
Now, I do have a picture of Suzen and Delores and I will put in in the top of this post when I figure out how to do that with my little iPad here.
In the meantime, you should know that the Saturday market is a rich mixture of fresh food ready to prepare at home, vendors cooking up gems for you to eat on the spot, buskers playing all kinds of music, some acappella rap, and a very tall and very lean and very adept juggler.
There are well over a hundred vendors here each Saturday. As summer just edges into the Pacific Northwest, berries are abundant. People buy them by the flat, to make their own jams and jellies. But there are excellent vendors who work magic with those berries and, what else, heat.
I remembered one vendor from my last visit six years ago, but they weren’t in the old location. How happy I was to turn a corner and find Rose City Pepperheads there with there table arranged from left to right, mild to hot to oh so intensely wonderful.
When we left New York, our bags weighed 47.5 pounds each, so we really have to be careful about buying another 20 pounds of stuff to take home. But, buy we did. The Sizzlin’ Strawberry is labeled as a barbeque, dipping, and cooking jelly. Just eat it. There is heat from some habeneros and wonderful sweet berry flavor from Oregon strawberries.
I know that I usually write about “make it yourself.” But there are things you just cannot make better than some experts. Rose City Pepperheads is one of those classy firms that makes wonderful products who deserve your support.
Go to rosecitypepperheads.com for recipes and to order.
There were four other vendors of distinction at the Saturday market. I fill you in over the course of this coming week. The great thing about the farmers markets across the country is the discovery experience for you, your family, and your friends. You may find a gem that can only, and will only, be found at that one stand. Or you may discover a vendor who is clearly going to expand, with their product becoming widely available regionally or even locally. It may be a guessing game about who will grow and how much, but the tasting game is always a win-win, for you and for that vendor who is putting heart and soul into their very personal creation.
Did you ever have someone give you an absolutely perfect dish? And you were going to get that recipe from them? And then, most sadly, they passed away? You remember their face and their laughter. You remember their tomato conserve that was a miracle.
Suzen and I had the pleasure of knowing Jacques Burdick, a wonderful man who once gave us a small jar of his tomato conserve. He smiled when he passed it to us but he did not make a big deal about his gift or boast that this was a treasure. He went home, we tasted, we could not believe.
And we never got around to asking him for the recipe and now we cannot.
So, we’ve searched recipe books and googled and never found anything close. Until now.
The Cheesemonger’s Table is a gorgeous book filled with cheese-oriented recipes. Serious, upscale recipes. I’ll blog about the book itself tomorrow. But very, very importantly, the book has this recipe for Cherry Tomato Jam for cheese. It’s quite close to Jacques’ miracle.
This jam can be made in an hour with very little effort. Physically, it is stunningly beautiful. Taste wise, it’s really, really good. Remember, tomatoes are fruit and all fruit is destined to become jam [or pies, or tarts, or …]
Enjoy this jam with soft white cheese on toasted bread. Triple crème never tasted so good.
The recipe comes from an exceptionally well-trained chef, Chester Hastings, in Los Angles. When he makes this jam, he’s mostly using California cherry tomatoes. When I made this jam, I was using supermarket tomatoes in February in upstate New York. My jam was great, but it was a bit lemony. I would suggest that when you make it, do some taste tests along the way, before and during the addition of the lemon juice to reach the flavor balance you like.
The yield stated in the recipe is 1 ½ cups. I got just over 1 cup. I think it’s a matter of the juiciness of the tomatoes and how much mass is lost when you take the skins off.
If you don’t get enough, just make more. All that you are doing is letting tomatoes fulfill their culinary destiny. It’s kinda religious. It’s definitely delicious.
Cherry Tomato Jam
Yield: 1 ½ cups
- 2 cups [340 grams] cherry or grape tomatoes
- ¾ cup [150 grams] sugar
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Heat the oven to 350°F.
Cut the tomatoes in half and place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for about 15 minutes to loosen the skins. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let cool slightly before carefully peeling away the skins.
Place the tomatoes and the sugar in sauce pan over medium heat and gently melt the sugar. Bring to a boil and cook, boiling rapidly for 5 to 7 minutes, or until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, and rosemary.
Transfer to a clean, sterilized jar and seal well. The jam can be kept refrigerated for 2 weeks, though I doubt it will last that long.
Source: Cheesemonger’s Kitchen by Chester Hastings